While celebrities and animal welfare activists rejoiced at the news Monday that Feld Entertainment is ending the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. circus, few observers will recognize this as a threat to working-class families.
For years animal welfare groups like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) and others have been campaigning for better treatment of animals. Their simple pitch is to improve the lives of animals. Crusades against the circus, farmers and restaurant chains all grab headlines in service of stopping the alleged cruelty to animals.
Shed no tears for the 500 employees that will lose their circus jobs, say animal activists, the animals are more important. In fact, this message is no small point. For the Feld Entertainment employees, some of whom have been with the circus for 50 years, job opportunities are not expected to be plentiful.
Look next at zoos, aquariums, wild animal exhibitors and farms with petting zoos to come under fire. In PeTA’s view, animals are not to be used for food, fashion or commerce. In fact, their view is so extreme that they don’t believe we should be allowed to keep cats or dogs as pets.
In PeTA’s own words: “Bigger cages and longer chains aren’t enough by any means. Animals need to be protected from harm and, where possible, permitted to live their own lives, forge their own relationships, raise their own families, and choose their own habitats and homes, just as you and I are free to do these things.”
To be clear, in PeTA’s view there is no acceptable standards for humans to raise, own or care for animals. For industries under fire the message is clear:you can’t ever meet our standards.
The other, more insidious side effect is cost. And this is the real goal of animal welfare activists. Years of trying to convince Americans to become vegans simply did not work. Now, the new strategy is to coerce big buyers of food (supermarkets chains, restaurant chains, etc.) to alter their buying practices. For instance, many major restaurant chains have pledged to buy eggs only from suppliers that sell eggs from chickens raised in cage-free environments.
Costco customers, for example, no longer have the right to choose and must buy only cage-free eggs. The result in Costco and elsewhere is higher prices for eggs.
California has been an example not to follow for the rest of the country in this regard. California voters passed Proposition 2 in 2008 and it became effective in 2015. The resulting law requires all eggs sold in the state to be raised from chickens who had enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
The result is that a dozen eggs in California are the most expensive in the nation. Wholesale prices of eggs as of this week were 129% higher in Southern California than the Midwest and 108% higher than even New York city.
If all cows must be grass-fed and raised on a minimum acreage per cow, you can imagine where the price of beef will go. And that’s the point. As the price of animal products rise, more people will choose away from them.
Even the most humane animal welfare practices are not good enough for the activists and higher prices are only one result. Soon, they will be coming for your family’s pet.
Gary Gerdemann is co-founder and partner at RunSwitch PR and has advised clients in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years.